Collaborating with colleagues at the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Florida and Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul, South Korea, Hong is conducting a quantitative pilot study of more than 600 African American adolescents, ages 12 through 22, from three high schools, one youth church group, two community youth programs, and four public venues frequented by youth in Chicago’s Southside. The goal of the study is to see if peer-victimized students report higher rates of depression, negative peer norms, and substance use and whether this mediates the association between peer victimization and sexual risks. According to Hong, findings from the pilot may inform a broader study that can inform culturally relevant social work practices and add to the literature on bullying and sexual risk.
Support for Youth Aging Out of Foster Care The experience of child abuse and neglect can dramatically affect developmental and emotional processes, with the long-term consequences impacting not only the children experiencing maltreatment but also their future relationships, families, and society. Youth in foster care face additional challenges related to separation from family, disruption from friends and school, and the stigma of being in care — all of which can impact their healthy development. Illustrating the negative impacts of trauma and loss, youth in foster care are two-and-a-half times more likely than their same-age peers to struggle with emotional, behavioral, and educational issues.
Although these issues often continue into adulthood, mental and physical health service use decreases dramatically after leaving care, and less than a third of youth with a history of foster care go on to enroll in post-secondary education. Transitions to independent living and to adulthood can be especially difficult for youth in foster care who often have less social, emotional, and financial support — yet there are also examples of positive outcomes and stories of resilience to inform practice and policy. Assistant Professor Megan Hayes Piel is working to advance research and best practices with foster youth transitioning to adulthood to ensure healthy development and to help them enjoy long and productive lives. In the first of three current projects, Piel is interviewing former foster youth about their experiences with health care, including their use and knowledge of campus-based and community healthcare resources. For the second, funded by the Wayne State University Office of the Provost University Research Grant, Piel is surveying former foster youth regarding their experiences navigating their mental health needs and services as they age out of the child welfare system. Findings from this research provide much needed insight to child welfare and behavioral health professionals to adequately assess and support the mental health needs of transition-age foster youth. Piel is also collaborating with the Wayne County Community College District on a three-year grant, funded by the State of Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, to develop and evaluate a wraparound support program for foster youth transitioning to higher education with the goal of increasing access, retention, and graduation